Students at Emerson Elementary School take part in a walkathon on Oct. 22 to help raise money for the school’s PTO.

Students at Emerson Elementary School take part in a walkathon on Oct. 22 to help raise money for the school’s PTO.

Photo provided by Kristin Ledford


Fall fundraisers return to Fraser schools

Pandemic caused disruptions last year

By: Brendan Losinski | Fraser - Clinton Township Chronicle | Published October 29, 2021

 Emerson Elementary School raised more than $25,000 from its annual walkathon. This was especially important after the school had to skip its annual fundraiser the prior year due to COVID-19.

Emerson Elementary School raised more than $25,000 from its annual walkathon. This was especially important after the school had to skip its annual fundraiser the prior year due to COVID-19.

Photo provided by Kristin Ledford

 Edison Elementary School hosted what officials called a “Day of Awesomeness” to raise money for the school’s PTO. The students then took part in activities such as obstacle courses, dancing and hula hooping.

Edison Elementary School hosted what officials called a “Day of Awesomeness” to raise money for the school’s PTO. The students then took part in activities such as obstacle courses, dancing and hula hooping.

Photo provided by Kristina Wiegand

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FRASER — COVID-19 caused problems for many school activities, a matter that was particularly disruptive when it came to fundraising programs. School administrators say they are now trying to make up for the lost revenue and find a way to return to normal.

Fraser Public Schools leaders said that the pandemic wasn’t just a matter of losing revenue, but also of losing enrichment opportunities for students.

“The kids are so overdue for a fun event and a way to be kids again,” said Kristina Wiegand, the principal at Edison Elementary School. “Everyone is talking about learning loss, but there are also experiences that have been lost due to the pandemic.”

Every year, FPS elementary schools host a major fundraising effort in the autumn. They are done to raise money for that school’s PTO. Most schools, such as Emerson Elementary, do a walkathon, where students collect donations and then walk a certain distance in or around the school.

“Here at Emerson, our fall walkathon is our biggest fundraiser,” said Sam Argiri, the school’s principal. “We only like to ask our parents once a year to donate to the school. All of the money goes to our PTO, and all of the money goes to fund our field trips, our ice cream social at the end of the year, gym and recess equipment, and each classroom teacher gets a stipend from them for classroom supplies.”

Edison Elementary, on the other hand, wanted to think outside the box and host a special day for students who took part in their fundraising efforts instead.

“All of our students from kindergarten to grade six were awestruck with all of the activities we had for them this year,” said Wiegand. “They had an obstacle course of inflatables that they went through on Oct. 20. They also had a dance party, a hula-hoop contest and some similar activities. It was called our ‘Day of Awesomeness.’ Step It Up sponsored it, and they brought out all of the materials. They provide fundraising activities, and we have used them twice before so we thought this was a great way to bring them back.”

The PTOs of each school rely on the money raised to help provide enrichment for students and help cover teachers’ costs inside the classroom.

“A school like Emerson is pretty small. We have about 350 students. We like to be able to do one big fundraising thing a year, and we don’t want to make them sell candy or chocolate or anything like that. We like to do this to give back to our schools and staff,” said Carrie Owens, the Emerson PTO president. “It provides money for teachers’ costs in the classroom. It provides money for buses on field trips. We are hoping to replace some playground equipment. We have a family fun night, too.

“We weren’t able to do a lot of events last year, so this year, we are doing more social-emotional learning activities,” added Wiegand. “They’re also funding banners to promote these ideas. They help fund assemblies and field trips. They host our upcoming trunk-or-treat and other similar events, as well. All of these things cost money, and we try not to charge our students for any of these things, and we try to fund it from the PTO instead.”

Not being able to host their usual fundraisers in 2020 presented challenges for schools.

“Not having an event last year definitely affected our funds as a whole,” remarked Owens. “We do have this every year, and we always raise between $10,000 and $15,000, so we didn’t have that this past year. We were able to stretch some of our funds from 2019 a little bit, since we didn’t do field trips that year because of COVID. It did affect the morale of students, though.”

Schools had to decide how they would proceed last year and how they would try to recover this year.

“Some schools tried a virtual walkathon last year, but we did not do one at Emerson,” Argiri said. “We sort of took a year off. We wanted to let people get back on their feet. I think it was the right decision because, this year, we beat our normal amount raised by about $10,000. We normally raise about $15,000, but this year we raised $25,061.”

“Our PTO funded a Step It Up fundraiser, which replaced our traditional walkathon,” added Wiegand. “Students collectively raised about $13,000 for the school, which exceeded what we used to raise with the walkathon. … Money was collected over the course of the last two weeks of September. …  Students asked their friends and families to donate to our school via the StepItUp electronic donation platform. The ‘Day of Awesomeness’ was the culminating event for all students to attend. During the ‘Day of Awesomeness,’ our top earners received their prizes for participation in the fundraiser, but all students attended the event itself.”

Argiri said that leading the kids out into the fresh air and being able to host a program they are supposed to have every year was refreshing and good for the students.

“It feels amazing to be able to return to normal,” he said. “Our school, the kids, the parents, seeing everyone back in their normal setting. It’s been wonderful to start the year this way. We’re operating as normal now with our events and people have been really enthusiastic.”

It also has the added benefit of giving kids the opportunity to have more fun.

“If our kids were able to raise $150 or more, they get to participate in a pinball party in town in the evening,” Argiri said. “They get to play pinball and arcade games and get free pizza. If they just signed up, they get entered into a raffle to go to that pinball party, too. We had Pop-It toys that the kids all get, too. We had raffle prizes for Jet’s Pizza, too, and that went to 50 students. Everyone gets a snack bag on the walkathon day, too.”

Owens said it is programs like this that can define a student’s elementary school experience.

“It’s super exciting to be able to come back and do these things again,” she said. “I have a son in middle school and a daughter here at Emerson in grade five. I love being able to come together as a community and see the kids coming out and having fun. It may just be walking around a track to us, but to them, it’s everything. It’s getting outside and being with their friends and showing that they raised money for their school.”

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